Mark Bernes

Mark Naumovich Bernes (Russian: Ма́рк Нау́мович Берне́с) (8 October [O.S. 25 September] 1911,[1] – 16 August 1969) was a Soviet actor and singer of Jewish ancestry (his father's last name was Neumann),[2] who performed some of the most poignant songs to come out of World War II, including "Dark Night" (Russian: Тёмная ночь, "Tyomnaya noch"; 1943) and "Cranes" (Russian: Журавли, "Zhuravli"; 1969). His voice had some similarities to Bing Crosby, but his style was closer to French chansonniers such as Yves Montand.

Mark Bernes
Mark Bernes 1937.JPG
Mark Bernes in the film Miners (1937)
Mark Naumovich Neyman (Neumann)

(1911-10-08)8 October 1911[1]
Died16 August 1969(1969-08-16) (aged 57)[1]
Moscow, Soviet Union
(now Russia)
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1929–1969
AwardsOrder redstar rib.png Order badge of honor rib.png RibbonLabourDuringWar.png 800thMoscowRibbon.png
Narodny artist RSFSR.png Medal State Prize Soviet Union.png
Soviet postcard with scenes from Bernes movies

Life and workEdit

In late 1930s, not long before the war, Mark Bernes starred in two motion pictures: Man With a Rifle and The Fighter Planes. In both of these films, he performed songs which immediately became famous all over the Soviet Union after each film was released. In the former film, he performed the song "Clouds Rose Over the City," which was a romantic song of a simple young Soviet worker. In the later film, he performed a famous patriotic ballad "Beloved Town". This pre-war song was full of hope and optimism, and several years later, encouraged soldiers during the war.

When the war began, Bernes became among the first singers to perform for the Soviet troops. In 1943, he starred in the motion picture Two Fighters. He played a young soldier from Odessa named Arkady Dzubin. In that film, Bernes demonstrated Jewish wit and humor characteristic of Jews from Odessa. In that film, he sang two masterpiece songs: "Dark Is the Night" (Russian: Тёмная ночь, "Tyomnaya noch") and "Scows Full of Mullet" (Russian: Шаланды полные кефали, "Shalandy polnye kefali"). The second song is the humorous account of Kostya the sailor from Odessa who ironically spoke to his fiancee Sonya, the fishing girl. The first song, "Dark Night" was a serious ballad about a wife with a baby waiting for a soldier in the midst of a deadly fight. The song was sung by Bernes from the point of view of that soldier, who addressed his wife at home and assured her that he will live through all the deadly battles as long as she waits for him. "Dark Night" is the most recognizable Soviet song from World War II.

Bernes's name had become closely associated with World War II. After the war, he continued to perform songs about the war. His greatest hits of the 1950s were "Boys From Moscow" (also known as "Sergey From Malaya Bronnaya Street") and "Enemies Burned the Dear House Down". Both songs were about hardships suffered by people who lost family members in the war, and expressed extreme melancholy, directly confronting death and grief. The latter song, was banned by the government, because it was considered too pessimistic and anti-Soviet. In the song, the soldier grieves for his killed wife, and laments that his hopes had been shattered. By the reasoning of the Soviet authorities, it was unpatriotic to sing about broken hopes when the war was won.

In the 1950s, Mark Bernes also performed torch songs such as the sentimental ballad I Dreamed of You Three Years, and inspirational optimistic songs such as the march "I Love You, My Life".

In 1969, Mark Bernes was dying from lung cancer. In the summer of 1969, he recorded his last song "Cranes" (Russian: Журавли́, "Zhuravli"), which became his swan song. Bernes sang that the soldiers that perished in war turned into cranes, that the cranes are still flying, and, that he will join their ranks. On 16 August, Mark Bernes died. "Cranes" was played at his funeral.

Popular songsEdit


Bernes received People's Actor of the RSFSR (1965), was awarded the Stalin Prize (1951), Order of the Red Star, Order of the Badge of Honour, Medal "For Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945" and few other medals. in 1993, Bernes received a star in his honour on the Star Square in Moscow.

A minor planet 3038 Bernes discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1978 is named after him.[3]


  1. ^ a b c This date: September 21 [O.S. September 8] 1911 – is a mistake found in the Large Soviet Encyclopaedia. True date: October 8 [O.S. September 25] 1911 – was engraved on the Bernes's gravestone at Novodevichy Cemetery (Moscow), and also confirmed by Bernes's daughter Natasha.
  2. ^ Mark Bernes' biography. –
  3. ^ Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – p.250

External linksEdit